The debate is over.
We’ve all bought our tickets.
Creating quality content is the most effective way to market a business.
Even the big retailers and B2Bs are on board.
But, questions of quantity and quality still linger.
How can I produce the right volume of valuable, sharable content? The truth is, you can pump out a ridiculous number of killer blog posts and still wind up with a poor conversion rate because you’re not answering your audience’s needs.
Your content has to be better. It has to stand out. And it has to strike a chord with your audience, and engage your influencers. You can’t write that kind of content consistently off the top of your head. You need research.
Here are some proven tactics that will build your knowledge base and help you write quality content your audience will love.
1. Monitor social media.
You’re probably already listening for your brand or company name mentions, which is great, but not enough. Expand your attention to pick up on trends, social cues, and weak signals. Industry topics, news, and even consumer ideas for new uses for your products.
2. Get to know your customers.
Customers are more than just faceless demographics. Chances are you’ve got a CRM chock full of information you’re not mining. Your sales staff should be entering every interaction (training may be necessary if they’re not).
Customer service notes, such as comments and complaints, are a rich source of inspiration. To spark their interest and earn their attention, get inside your customer’s head. Find service or product areas you need to address and questions you need to answer.
Content that provides in-depth answers is a powerful drawcard.
Just how powerful is customer knowledge?
According to Invesp, developing an effective buyer persona can result in a 238% increase in conversions. Understanding your customers pays off in a big way!
3. Check out your competitors
Competitive analysis is perhaps the strongest indicator of what works. By observing what resonates with the audience of competing businesses, you can better predict what your audience will appreciate.
A competitor content audit gives you a comprehensive overview of what is working in your industry, information you can use to improve your marketing strategy and SEO.
Screenshot from Rival IQ
4. Do keyword research
Forget keyword optimization, long-tail keyword stuffing, and all the other word weirdness that used to work. It’s not only not effective, it might actively hurt your search engine rank.
That does not mean you should stop doing keyword research. Keywords reveal what people are talking about, responding to, and sharing.
Use popular topics for inspiration and find a new angle, or combine ideas to add depth.
5. Test your titles
When running keyword research for the screenshot above, Buzzsumo yielded “Marketing Is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It,” and I was hooked. I had to stop working and read it. That’s what your title should be, an irresistible lure.
Oh, and it should contain your primary keyword. That’s still a thing.
Screenshot from Co-Schedule
The Co-Schedule Headline Analyzer gave “Knowledge In, Content Out” a B+ (This was the original headline for this article). Perhaps I should throw in a puppy. Everybody loves puppies.
6. Read the research
Last year, Buzzsumo analyzed the social share volume of 100 million posts to determine what people share and why. The results are pretty enlightening.
Key findings: longer content is more popular, images are practically mandatory, and people are more likely to share based on emotional value.
Graphic courtesy of OkDork
Brian Carter and Marketo researched what people share on Facebook and why a few years ago, and offer practical advice on using the knowledge to better your content. (It’s super long, so it must be really good)
There are a ton of industry reports that will help you keep up, and a lot of them are free. Because industry reports are excellent content that get shared a lot. See how that works?
You can also base some blog posts on statistics. Reports can be a little dry. Blog posts written with added context to show how statistical information applies to your business are often wildly popular. Jeff happens to be really good at showing how to put statistics to use. Watch and learn!
7. Optimize your content
You did your homework and poured your heart into a killer post with a can’t miss title… and you’re still not done. Sorry. Now it’s time to optimize your work before publishing. That requires a different kind of knowledge, on-page SEO.
If your writing has focus, your post will have all the semantic keywords and concepts it needs to make the penguin happy. No real need to obsess over that.
For solid SEO and added interest you need:
- A concise and descriptive meta description
- Sub-headers containing keywords and variants
- Links to other internal pages (to keep visitors in your site longer)
- Outbound links (to authoritative sites)
- Images (preferably with descriptive ALT text)
Adding other visual media, like videos and slideshows, isn’t a must, but will increase interest and boost the share value of your posts.
There’s no way to predict how much attention your content will get, but you have a much better chance of earning attention with a knowledge-based approach. If you consistently churn out well-written, personable posts loaded with information and insight, your audience will grow. It may take patience at first; building momentum can be slow.
Content is, in essence, your brand. What you post drives consumer interest in your company and inspires your fans to become brand advocates. The trick is to build a careful library of knowledgeable, informative content based on industry topics people search for, and present it in an understandable way. Then spiff it up with graphics and whatnot so it looks pretty.
Knowledge, presentation, and promotion. That’s what makes great content.
Now that you know my process for developing content, tell me yours.
What methods do you use to research topics and develop content?
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Guest Author: Sherry Gray is a freelance content writer from Key West, FL, currently suffering the burbs of Orlando. She’s a science geek, a business and marketing writer, and an unapologetic fan of all things bacon. Connect with Sherry on Twitter@sherisaid or on Linkedin.